Biography: Susan Louise Cook-Clark/Lupton (1876-1955)

Susan Cook is my great grandmother on my mother’s father’s side:

My great grandmother Susan died a decade before I was born. She loved family history as much as I do. She spent many hours researching genealogy and even paid professionals to go dig up records. Remember, she lived in a time long before computers and databases. The only way to dig up old records was to go to the physical records and make copies. People actually made a living doing that. Most who dive into genealogy want a connection with their ancestors and descendants. They want to remember, and be remembered. Although this biography is a bit thin, I’m sure she would be tickled by it. I’m also sure that although Susan has been gone for many decades, this little biography will increase her eudaimonia.

What do I mean by that? In classic Greek the term “eudaimonia” means well-being or good life. The ancient philosopher Aristotle believed eudaimonia is the highest human good, and that good things that happened “AFTER” your death could increase your eudaimonia.

Okay, now for her biography. She was born Susan Louisa Cook on April 1, 1876, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Her father George Cook was 32. Her mother Harriet Winton was 35.

Susan’s first years in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Susan’s father George was born in England and immigrated to America when he was just six years old. George served in the Civil War and married Susan’s mom Harriet six years after the Civil War in 1871 in Easton Connecticut. George married into a very old and established American family. After their wedding, they moved 12 miles away to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Susan’s older brother Franklin Seeley Cook was born the next year. Susan was born a few years later in 1874.

Susan’s dad George owned two businesses in Bridgeport. He owned a grocery store with his brother-in-law George Winton and opened a Livery Stable next store when the space opened up. His days were filled with running a grocery store with his brother-in-law, renting space for horses, and renting out horses to locals and visitors.

To further paint a picture, here is an ad dad George put in the City Directory I found and clipped. The phone book ad is from 1878. Susan was about four years old at this point and two years before her mother’s death. Although I don’t know for sure, I can imagine little Susan running around the grocery store and livery stable from about 3 years old through the death of her mother when she was age 6.

Later in life, Susan Louisa Clark reflected back upon her early childhood home in Bridgeport, Connecticut:

“It was modern – gas lighting then – furnace, bath & all & three nice fireplaces, two on main floor and one on 2nd floor. We had a nice playroom with everything in the high roomy attic and in the double doorway between one of the two sitting rooms and the dining room. Frank had his trapeze swing and I my nice child chair swing. I remember everything, even to riding my black, English perambulator when a baby- – – -. Our old Conn. home, Old Mill Green section, east of Bridgeport was on the NY to Boston Post Rd. laid out by Benjamin Franklin and he also placed milestones every mile on that road. There was one in front of our home.” –Louise C. Lupton

The Leander Clark Adoption

Leander Clark, circa 1880.

First, let’s establish that Leander Clark is a blood relative. Although it turns out the Clark surname is NOT a direct line ancestor surname of mine, it is a collateral relative surname. A collateral relative is descended from the same stock, but in a different line such as from aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Leander Clark was Susan’s first cousin. Susan’s grandma Hannah Downs is the sister to Leander Clark’s mom Laura Downs.

Susan’s adoption story begins when her mother Harriet dies four months after Susan’s sixth birthday. George struggles from depression and Susan is shipped off to first cousin Leander Clark. More on this in a moment. For now, here is a family unit chart for her father George Cook who remarries two years later.

In this chart, notice the middle name of “Seeley” is used both for mom Harriet and her first born Franklin. Seeley is a family name on Harriet’s side of the family that goes back to my 10th great grandpa Robert Seeley (1602-1667). Robert immigrated to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630 with the famed John Winthrop (the “City on a hilltop” guy). In 1637, he fought along with Winthrop and Roger Williams in the Pequot War and was severely wounded by an arrow that hit him in the eyebrow. He was second in command to Captain John Mason who pulled the arrow out. He died about three decades later in or near New York. Robert’s name is featured on three historic plaques listing town founders in Watertown, Wethersfield, and New Haven. The Seeley family name was still in use at this point in our family — mom Harriet “Seeley” Winton was eight generations removed from Robert Seeley.

Many families name children after ancestors and that does help verify family data. My grandfather Ralph “Leander” Lupton was partially named after Leander Clark. When Ralph and his wife Winifred had their first child, they named him Larry “Cook” Lupton partially named after George Cook, the birth father of Susan. Unfortunately Larry Cook Lupton’s journey was cut short at 5 days old.

Okay, back to Susan’s story and how she was adopted by her first cousin. The story goes that when Harriet Seeley Winton died at age 40 in 1880, Susan’s father George Cook was depressed. They had built a family and two businesses together for nine years and had a very full life.

Harriet’s mom, grandma Hannah, was living with them during this time. About five months after her mom’s death, Grandma Hannah takes Susan to her nephew Leander and his wife Maria in January 1881. They travel over 1,100 miles by train from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Toledo, Iowa. Many years later, Susan recalls the experience in the following quote:

“…my own father Cook was devoted to me but Grandma Winton said soon after my mother’s death that she was getting too old to care for us…so my father was much disturbed and bewildered but wouldn’t give me up anyway for some time. Finally I remember starting to Iowa on the Sleeper with Grandma Winton…in January 1881.”-Susan Lupton

George remarried the next year and went on to have two more kids. Leander adopted Susan and became both her first cousin and adopted father. Susan never forgot her biological father George Cook and records suggest she even had a close relationship with her step-mother Anna Booth later in life.

Growing up in Iowa

Susan is about 9, circa 1885.

Who was Leander Clark? Leander Clark (1823 to 1910) help establish much of Tama County, Iowa and other areas. He got rich by leveraging money earned during the Gold Rush into various land deals. He was an American businessman, Justice of the Peace, a judge, Iowa state legislator, Union Army officer during the Civil War (wounded twice), Indian agent, and was the namesake for Leander Clark College and the city of Clark, Iowa. Leander Clark College is now Coe College.

Susan lived with her adopted parents and servants in a large house, a mansion really. Here’s a picture of it circa 1890. Can you see the birds in the birdcage in the open window on the first floor?

If you compare this picture of the house to the widely circulated 1903 picture, you’ll notice the house had some work especially around the windows and the plants in the 1903 picture are much larger.

The mansion of Leander Clark was torn down and turned into a city park by 1950. Leander’s original iron gate survived and surrounded the park. A plaque honoring Leander Clark was placed on the iron gate.

1891: Death of her adopted mother Maria

Susan’s adopted mother Maria passed away at age 50 on July 1, 1891. Susan was a teenager, age 15. I can imagine that losing both her biological and adopted moms by age 15 impacted Susan. I imagine the deaths contributed at least a bit to her life-long pursuit of genealogy and a desire to connect with ancestors and to be remembered.

1894: Susan Graduates High School

In 1894, Susan graduated high school. Here is her high school graduation picture.

1897: Susan Graduates College

Susan graduates college at age 21 in 1897. Her degree was in Dramatics on Speech & Physical Training.

1898: Susan Marries John Lupton

Seven years later, Susan marries John Laurence Lupton on July 12, 1898 in Toledo. They had nine children in 16 years. At the time of their wedding Susan Louisa Cook-Clark went by Susie. Later in life she would go by Louise. On the 1900 Census, husband John specified his occupation as “Capitalist”.

By 1909, John and Susan had six of their eventual nine kids. Family life was good.

From top left to right: Dwight Samuel, John Bryant, Howell Clark, Ralph Leander, Harriet Esther, and Hubert Herman.

1910: Leander Clark Dies

Leander Clark dies a few weeks before Christmas 1910. After his death, the mansion, investments, money all go to Susan in the form of an estate. Her husband John manages the estate. In 1918, John fills out his draft registration card and indicates “Manager, Clark Estate and own property.” He lists his employer as “Leander Clark Estate.”

Leander Clark Funeral Card, MP restored, colorized.

Susan’s married name late in life was Louise C Lupton. In this photo, she is age 41 in the front of their Iowa mansion. This photo was taken in 1917 by her husband John Laurence Lupton. Her son Clark was also taking pictures that Sunday afternoon. From the back of the picture:

“41 years old. & taken in our yard by Dad. He got me to laughing. Had use of my teeth then. Some work on face. So not a perfect copy. Copied & enlarged from post card size snapshot. Dad & Clark were both taking pictures that Sun. aft.”

1918: Son Clark Dies from the Spanish Flu Pandemic

Susan’s first born Howell Clark Lupton died in Grinnell, Iowa on November 24, 1918, at the age of 19. He died in military service from pneumonia nearly 4 weeks after enlisting. He died from the Spanish H1N1 flu which killed approximately 50 million people in 1918.

The following photo is from circa 1940.


On the Lupton-Cook side of the family we are lucky enough to have many family members that are interested in our family history. Susan joined the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and paid professional genealogists to perform research. Her research which was completed many decades before computers has mostly lived up to the test of time. I was particularly impressed with her research on Sergeant Edward Hinman, and Nathaniel Seeley.

1949: John Passes

Susan’s husband John Laurence passed away on August 6, 1949, in Cedar Rapids at the age of 75. They had been married 51 years.

1955: Susan Passes

She died on July 29, 1955, in Lodi, California, at the age of 79.

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